I was totally into ramen before it was cool. I used to eat ramen for breakfast before school most days in junior high and high school. Ramen got me through college, cliche as that may sound. And to this day, I enjoy a bowl — dressed up with baked tofu and veggies — at least once every weekend morning while catching up on my shows (currently Homeland and House of Cards).
But now that ramen's all vogue, I can get a gourmet bowl in a restaurant! Robata Ramen & Yakitori Bar in Overton Square serves to-die-for vegan Yasai Ramen!
I ordered this bowl on a recent dinner meetup with my pal John from The Fork. It has rice noodles in a seaweed and soy broth with vegetables, tofu, and corn. Yum! The broth is so very flavorful, and they don't skimp on the veggies. In Japanese style, they use plain silken tofu instead of the baked tofu I'm used to, but I didn't mind one bit.
Vegans, you should know that Robata's non-rice noodles are egg noodles. So stick with the rice noodles!
Although ramen is the star of the show, Robata has lots of other little snacky vegan items. The Deep-fried Vegetable Gyoza are so good! They're crispy on the outside and all cabbagey on the inside. You can also order these pan-fried.
The Plum Onigiri is one of my favorite things. These rice balls are sticky and chewy. Be sure and ask for plum because they're often served with fish. It's hard to explain the complex flavor of these, but if you love rice and salty plum pickles, you'll love these.
Robata specializes in yakitori (skewers), and they have a number of vegan options on the yakitoti menu. John and I ordered several to share — Nasu Dengaku (eggplant with miso), Eringi (king oyster mushrooms), and Garlic.
The garlic is my very fave! It's all char-grilled, so you get those crispy bits with every bite. But since it's cooked, the strong garlic flavor is subdued quite a bit. The eggplant yakitori is also amazing! They're generous with the miso sauce, and the scallions really round out the flavor. Also, you can never go wrong with king oyster mushrooms. By the way, that white blob of sauce in the corner of the plate is not vegan. Don't eat that.
There are some other tofu dishes on the appetizer menu, but beware. Some contain fish sauce. So when ordering at Robata, be sure and ask about any word on the menu you're not familiar with. We made the mistake of ordering the Age-dashi tofu. I asked them to leave off the bonito flakes, which they kindly did. But I didn't realize that dashi also means fish, so the tofu was sitting in a fishy sauce. But it's all good — John eats meat, and he was happy to eat the fishy sauce.
Robata Ramen & Yakitori Bar is at 2116 Madison Avenue. Call 901-410-8290.